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Potential for using visual, auditory and olfactory cues to manage foraging behaviour and spatial distribution of rangeland livestock

Larry D. Howery, Andres F. Cibils, Dean M. Anderson
CAB Reviews 2013 v.8 no.No. 049 pp. -
avoidance behavior, drinking, evolutionary adaptation, foraging, free range husbandry, grazing, habitats, hearing, learning, livestock, managers, observational studies, pastures, predators, rangelands, smell, spatial distribution, ungulates, vision
This paper reviews the literature and reports on the current state of knowledge regarding the potential for managers to use visual (VC), auditory (AC) and olfactory (OC) cues to manage foraging behaviour and spatial distribution of rangeland livestock. We present evidence that free-ranging livestock use these sensory cues to make decisions about foraging, drinking, habitat selection and spatial distribution, and to detect and avoid predators. This knowledge provides managers with opportunities to favourably alter behavioural patterns of rangeland ungulates. Opportunities to use sensory cues to shape livestock spatial distribution patterns arise primarily from the abilities of animals to: (a) learn to respond to cue–consequence associations that enhance their ability to adapt to changing foraging environments on rangelands, (b) generalize learned cue–consequence associations across spatial and temporal foraging scales and (c) influence one another’s behaviour through social learning. Key literature on cue–consequence principles is initially reviewed from fine-scale studies (e.g., controlled studies conducted in mazes, arenas). Applications of cue–consequence principles are then highlighted from literature dealing with field-scale studies (e.g., controlled and observational studies conducted in large pastures or paddocks). We then discuss potential management implications derived from these studies. Finally, we summarize conclusions and recommendations for potential future research directions. The studies reviewed here suggest that VC, AC and OC associated with positive or negative reinforcers can be used to effectively direct livestock towards or away from selected areas. The feasibility of favourably altering grazing pressure on rangelands without having to build expensive, static fences has the potential to provide substantial economic and ecologic advantages.